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Blues send former No. 1 pick Erik Johnson to Avs

by John Kreiser
The St. Louis Blues made their second major deal in less than 24 hours when they dealt former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson to Colorado early Saturday.

Hours after sending captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for junior defenseman Brock Beukeboom and a draft pick, the Blues dealt Johnson, also a defenseman, to the Avs along with forward Jay McClement and a first-round pick for rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, third-year forward Chris Stewart and a second-round pick.

The draft picks will be used in the 2011 Entry Draft unless the Blues have a top-10 selection, in which case St. Louis can opt to transfer its 2012 first-rounder instead. If that happens, the Avs will send their second-round pick to St. Louis in 2012 instead of 2011.

It's a major shakeup for both teams as they battle to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. St. Louis has dropped to 13th, seven points out of the last playoff berth, despite Friday's 3-0 win at Buffalo. The Avs are 14th, 11 points out of eighth, and have lost nine in a row entering Saturday night's game at San Jose.

"We are excited to be adding a top young defenseman in this league, a player who will have an impact on our blue line for several years to come," Avalanche General Manager and Executive Vice President Greg Sherman said in a statement. "In addition, Jay McClement brings six years of NHL experience and will compliment our young hockey club.  He will also have an important role on our penalty killing unit."

"Moreover, the acquisition of an additional first-round draft pick represents a valuable asset and is a key component of this overall package."

By far the biggest name in the deal is Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound blueliner from whom big things were expected when he became the fifth American taken with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Johnson, an alternate captain who turns 23 next month, said at the time he was open to turning pro with the Blues right away, but the Bloomington, Minn., native opted to spend a season at the University of Minnesota before turning pro. He had 5 goals and 33 points as a rookie in 2007-08, but missed all of the 2008-09 season with a knee injury after an offseason accident.

Johnson bounced back with 10 goals and 39 points in 2009-10, but hasn't produced as much offense this season -- he had 5 goals and 19 points in 55 games, including an assist in Friday's win at Buffalo.

McClement has spent all of his five-plus NHL seasons with the Blues since entering the NHL in 2005, four years after he was taken in the second round. He has 6 goals and 16 points in 55 games this season; his career-high in goals was 12 in 2008-09 and he had a career-best 36 points in '06-07.

The Avs, who dealt Craig Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott on Friday in an exchange of goaltenders, gave up a talented forward in Stewart and a former first-rounder in Shattenkirk to get Johnson and McClement.

Stewart had 13 goals and 30 points in 36 games this season after leading the Avs with 28 goals and finishing second in points with 64 in 2009-10. He was picked 17 spots behind Johnson in the 2006 draft. Stewart missed more than a month earlier this season with a broken right hand.

The Avs took Shattenkirk with the 14th pick in the 2007 Entry Draft; he turned pro after three seasons at Boston University. The native of Greenwich, Conn., started the season with the Avs' AHL affiliate in Lake Erie but was called up due to a rash of injuries and cemented an NHL job with a nine-game points streak from Nov. 17 to Dec. 4. He's tailed off offensively since then, but has 7 goals and 26 points in 46 games.

"We're very excited to acquire a young emerging power forward in Chris Stewart and a top young NHL defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk," Blues Executive VP and GM Doug Armstrong said. "These are two solid young players who will help us now as we continue to grow and improve our team. I would like to thank Erik and Jay for their service to the St. Louis Blues and wish them nothing but the best of luck."

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